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Tuesday 7 March 2000

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Ahmedabad
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Abandoned in a gutter, girl child awaits Women's Day

By Mihir Mistry and Radha Sharma

AHMEDABAD: Unlike other infants who get a name at a ceremony a week after their birth, this girl child, born a couple of days ago, already has a name "emergency police record (EPR) No 11890."

She may grow up and get a proper name, that is, if she survives.

Incidentally, this grim reminder of the plight of the girl child, the ones born to unwed mothers or born in families where female foeticide is rampant, comes just when the government, social and non-government organisations are planning to make a show out of International Women's Day on Wednesday.

Today, EPR No 11890 is fighting a battle for survival at the neo-natal ward of the civil hospital where she was rushed by the Naroda police. "We beat the dogs and crows and retrieved the girl from a gutter on NH 8," says police sub-inspector PU Solanki.

Someone had gone to answer nature's call in the gutter and found the baby, wrapped in rough jute-rags. But no one touched the child, it was gasping, ever so slowly because her body had cooled down drastically.

The shopkeepers, truck-drivers, hawkers, all surrounded the place, some cursing the mother, some pitying the fate of the infant but none of them took the girl to the safety of a room and wrap her in warm clothes, Solanki added.

EPR No 11890 was abandoned, apparently by her mother to avoid social ostracism in the chill of the end-winter morning of Friday in a gutter. She is suffering from acute hypothermia or lowering of body temperature and sclerema, a skin infection, doctors at the Civil Hospital said. The warmth of her mother's bosom has been replaced by that of a compassionless electric room heater and the 24-hour attention that a mother gives to an infant is made up by nurses in eight-hour shifts.

Lady police constables Chandrikaben and Dakshaben will take care of EPR No 11890 for a month or two till she is strong enough to withstand the roller-coaster ride to adulthood in the city's one of many foster homes.

EPR No 11890 was a slight, underweight infant weighing a low 1.55 kg when it was brought to the hospital, a resident doctor said on condition of anonymity. However, the timely attention that she got helped her regain some health. "She is more stable and the weight has not fallen which is a good sign," the doctor added.

But he cautioned that with hypothermia and sclerema still persisting, it was not possible to gauge when the infant would fully recover. He added all other body functions were normal and that was the good news.



The Economic Times


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